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Our View: Buzz-words galore in the minimum wage conversation

Akel presidential candidate Andreas Mavroyiannis

“The minimum wage must be universal, and its height must secure a dignified level of living in conditions of healthy employment,” said the Akel president candidate Andreas Mavroyiannis about the minimum wage set by the government on Wednesday. “At a time when inflation is at double digits and the cost of living continuously rises, what is needed is determination to effectively deal with job insecurity and uncertainty,” he added, before emphasising that “employment must be able to secure for a person respectable living conditions and quality of life.”
Mavroyiannis was echoing the sentiments of his backers Akel, who believed the expectations and demands of the working people could not be met by the government, while the party mouthpiece, Haravghi greeted the minimum wage with a banner headline that said, “Wages of hunger and conditions of slavery for thousands of youths.” The party’s line was that “unprotected workers, in particular the young, today do not enjoy dignified wages and basic rights.”
The Green Party was not satisfied with the level of the national minimum, especially during this time of “high inflation and expensiveness.” It did make a valid point regarding the decision not to cover certain groups of workers such as domestic helpers and farm workers and the failure to set a minimum hourly rate. This created the danger that some workers would be expected to work 50-hour weeks, in order to be paid the minimum wage.
This was probably the only legitimate criticism of the government decree. To argue that it should have been set at a higher level because of the high rate of inflation was laughable. Higher wages would only increase the rate of inflation and put pressure on employment, making a bad situation worse.
As for the socialist mumbo-jumbo uttered by Mavroyiannis and Akel, it would be very interesting to hear how they propose to calculate the value of a minimum wage that would be “dignified” and “secures respectable living conditions and quality of life.” What metrics would they use to calculate the “dignified” wage how would they define “respectable living conditions”? Do they have ball-park figure for the dignified minimum they could share with us so we could understand their outrage?
The reality is that there is no such thing as a “dignified” wage. This idea only exists in the socialist rhetoric of left-wing parties and politicians, who have always had difficulty accepting that in a market economy the forces of supply and demand determine wages, even though powerful trade unions could still dictate the level of wages in the public sector. It is difficult to say whether the minimum wages is at the correct or wrong level at present. If unemployment starts rising, it could mean that €940 per month is too high, but if employment conditions stay the same, we would conclude that it is at the right level.

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